Paper 13 of 20 'Plain Papers on Prophetic and Other Subjects'.
Half the Bible, or more, relates to Israel. The inspired records of their origin, the detailed history of God's patient, gracious dealings with them in the past, and the prophetic pencillings of what awaits them in the future, form the largest portion of the Old Testament: while, even in the New, Israel is far from being overlooked. The Gospels, in declaring the wonders of the incarnation and of redemption, record the accomplishment of these wonders in Israel's land, and among Israel's sons; the Acts disclose to us the lingerings of divine mercy over that favoured race; and by the first of the Epistles we are expressly instructed that, solemn as is the darkness which now reigns over Israel, it is but for a time — "blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in, and so all Israel shall be saved." The Old and New Testament both forbid the self-conceit and self-exaltation which would abuse God's signal mercy to us "sinners of the Gentiles," so as to make it a reason for slighting or disregarding God's covenanted mercies to the earthly people of His choice.
Neither Israel nor the Church, however, can be rightly regarded as the final object of God's ways. That object is the glorifying of Himself in Christ. Christ is the centre of all His counsels, the object of all His ways. But Christ has relations to Israel as well as to the Church; and while it is beyond doubt that His relations to the latter are unspeakably more tender and intimate than His relations to the former, there is no need that the one should cast the other into oblivion. In its place each is perfect. If the Church knows Christ as her Head and Bridegroom, Israel is yet to know Him as "Jehovah her righteousness," and as "the King that comes in the name of Jehovah" If Christ be the Hope of the Church, as He surely is, there in yet to be a remnant of Israel, who, amid the tribulations of the approaching crisis, and under the oppression of the great adversary, shall invoke and expect the advent of their Messiah; and who, when Christ shall have appeared to their joy and to the confusion of their enemies, shall be able to, say, "Yea, in the way of thy judgments, O Lord, have we waited for thee; the desire of our soul is to thy name, and to the remembrance of thee." But it is the same Jesus who is their Messiah, and the Bridegroom of our hopes. Need we any other motive to interest us in all that is revealed as to Israel's destinies? And while, as we have seen in previous papers, Scripture bears ample testimony to the fact of Israel's restoration, and to its national pre-eminence and glory in the millennial period, the testimony of inspiration is not less decisive as to Israel's part in the fearful crisis which immediately precedes the dawn of millennial blessing. The nation's part in the solemn scenes to which we now refer is depicted in prophecy with a faithful hand; while, as to the godly remnant of Israel in those coming days, large portions of Scripture portray the exercises of their souls, and indicate the depths of trouble and of anguish through which they will be brought, and out of which they will emerge — some, by a martyr's death and resurrection, into the heavenly glory of Christ and His ascended people; others, by the appearing of Christ and the overthrow of His enemies, into the triumph and gladness of the earthly department of Christ's glorious kingdom.
1. It will be readily recollected by our readers, how, in a former stage of our enquiries, we found that Israel's dispersion and calamities overtook them at different epochs and on different grounds. It was for idolatry that the ten tribes were carried away into a captivity from which they never returned. True, it was for this and its attendant sins that Judah also was some time after given up to Nebuchadnezzar, and it was then the sentence "Lo-ammi, not my people," fell upon the entire nation. But instead of Judah being left entirely and permanently in the lands of their captivity, as the ten tribes were, it is universally known that a portion returned; and though always afterwards subject to a Gentile yoke, these returned captives (Jews, properly so called) were permitted to dwell in their own land, to rebuild Jerusalem, and to observe the worship of the true God, according to the directions of the law of Moses. It was among their descendants that Christ made His appearance when He came in humiliation; and it was for their sin in rejecting Him that they were given up to the Roman sword, and to all the sorrows of their present long dispersion. "The cup of trembling" was then put into their hands, and "the dregs of that cup" they have yet, alas! to "wring out." The ten tribes, distinctively denominated Israel, or Ephraim, having had no part in this crowning sin of the Jews, will not partake of those special troubles in the land by which, in addition to all that they have suffered, this sin will receive its appointed punishment at God's baud. Down to the very moment of their deliverance by divine power, at the coming of Christ with the clouds of heaven, the Jews nationally will suffer the inflictions of God's righteous displeasure — these inflictions, as we shall see, being the heaviest at the very close. The ten tribes will be restored in another way, and under totally different circumstances. But let us first consider what is predicted touching the Jews.
2. It may be well to cite a few passages which treat of the time immediately preceding Israel's deliverance, as one of deepest trial and distress. "For thus says the Lord, We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace. Ask ye now, and see whether a man doth travail with child? Wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness? alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it." (Jer. 30:5-7.) This passage needs no comment. Equally explicit is the following: "And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which stands for the children of thy people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such an never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time shall thy people be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book." (Dan. 12:1.) In the well-known passage in which our Lord quotes these words, speaking of a time of tribulation such as was not since the beginning of the world, He adds, "no, nor ever shall be." And, as though to give us the deepest possible impression of the awful character of that period, He says, "And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened." (Matt. 24:21-22.) Our readers will remember what it in that terminates this time of unparalleled distress. "Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, … and then "I appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn; and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory." (Verses 29, 30.) So immediately is the coming of the Son of man in judgment preceded by this time of unequalled tribulation.
3. We have many intimations in Scripture that a portion of the Jews will return to their own land in a state of unbelief; that they will form alliances there with the wicked rulers of the Gentiles; that they will be by them deceived and oppressed; and that thus this tribulation, unequalled even in all their eventful history, will befall them. Isaiah 17 and 18 though in figurative and what might at first sight seem obscure language, bears important testimony on this subject. Chapter 17 commences with the burden of Damascus. In verse 4 the prophet turns to Israel and God's dealings with that people. The epoch to which the prophecy relates is one at which "the glory of Jacob" is to be "made thin, and the fatness of his flesh" to "wax lean." The diminution of the people is so great that those who survive are compared to "gleaning grapes," or the "two or three berries left in the top of the uttermost bough after the shaking of an olive tree." Those who do thus survive are represented as looking to their Maker, instead of to the altars which their own hands had made — as having respect to the Holy One of Israel, instead of to the groves and images which were once the objects of their idolatrous homage. Such is to be the issue of these closing troubles. But, then, we are led back, as it were, to the troubles themselves, and that which brought them upon the nation. "And there shall be desolation. Because thou hast forgotten the God of thy salvation, and hast not been mindful of the Rock of thy strength, therefore shalt thou plant pleasant plants, and shalt set it with strange slips: in the day shalt thou make thy plant to grow, and in the morning shalt thou make thy seed to flourish; but the harvest shall be a heap in the day of grief and of desperate sorrow." The people are here seen, as of old, depending upon themselves and their own natural resources, forgetting God, and seeking fruitfulness by their own endeavours. "A harvest of sorrow in the day of desperate sorrow" is all the fruit this husbandry yields. We then find a passing glance at the instruments of their final distress; and the sudden overwhelming destruction of these enemies of Israel is foretold. "Woe to the multitude of many people, which make a noise like the noise of the seas; and to the rushing of nations, that make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters! The nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters; but God shall rebuke them, and they shall flee afar off, and shall be chased as the chaff of the mountains before the wind, and like a rolling thing (or thistle-down, see margin) before the whirlwind. And, behold, at evening-tide trouble; and before the morning he is not. This is the portion of them that spoil us, and the lot of them that rob us." How evident from all this that the returned Jews will still be acting in a spirit of self-righteousness and self-dependence, for which they will have to pass through all the desolation caused by the rushing of the nations and peoples like the rushing of many waters; that in their extremity of trial God will arise to their deliverance, and rebuke their enemies; and that the overthrow of these enemies will be so sudden, that at evening-tide the trouble will be at its height — in the morning those who have caused it will be nowhere to be found! Such is chapter 17.
4. Isaiah 18 seems to go again over the same ground, entering more into detail, and furnishing some particulars not previously made known. Some maritime nation, distinguished as such by the expression "that sends ambassadors to the sea;" is represented as taking Israel under the wing of its protection. Israel is spoken of as a nation "scattered and peeled, a people terrible from their beginning hitherto; a nation meted out and trodden down, whose land the rivers have spoiled." Now that this alliance is formed between this outcast, exiled race, and the maritime power of which the chapter treats, universal attention is demanded. Mighty events are at hand when this comes to pass. "All ye inhabitants of the world, and dwellers on the earth, ace ye, when he lifts up an ensign on the mountains; and when he blows a trumpet, hear ye." But signal though this be of the commencement of a crisis in which all are interested, and to which all are summoned to pay attention, God Himself does not, as yet, openly interfere. "For so the Lord said unto me, I will take my rest, and I will consider in my dwelling place like a clear heat upon herbs. and like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest." Events are not yet quite ripe for divine interference; but they are represented as the objects of divine attention. The verse just quoted is somewhat differently rendered by scholars. "For thus says the Lord unto me: I will sit still (but I will keep my eye upon my prepared habitation) as the parching heat just before lightning, as the dewy cloud in the heat of harvest." The passage suggests thus the idea of that awful season of deathly stillness and oppressive heat, which precedes the bursting of some dreadful thunderstorm. "Not a gleam of sunshine breaks for a moment through the sullen gloom; not a breath stirs; not a leaf wags; not a blade of grass is shaken: nature seems to be numbed:" (Faber.) all seems at a stand and in suspense. It is thus the Spirit of prophecy has seen good to portray to us the short season during which the Jews, aided by some powerful maritime nation, are re-settling in their own land. The mass of them are still in a state of unbelief, and go through terrible trials ere the moment of deliverance comes. "For afore the harvest, when the bud is perfect, and the sour grape is ripening in the flower, he shall both cut off the sprigs with pruning hooks, and take away and cut down the branches. They shall be left together unto the fowls of the mountains, and to the beasts of the earth: and the fowls shall summer upon them, and all the beasts of the earth shall winter upon them." They are represented thus as morally unchanged, since the day when God complained of them as His vineyard, which produced wild grapes alone. Now, however, the sour grape is not allowed to ripen. The sprigs and branches are prematurely cut down, and the beasts and fowls feed upon them. In other words, these returned Jews again suffer, and that most severely, at the hands of the nations, whose rushing was foretold in the previous chapter. But this is the last, short-lived triumph of the nations over Israel. We have seen how suddenly and utterly they are to be overthrown when God rises up to judgment; and the chapter before us concludes by foretelling that "in that time shall the present be brought unto the Lord of hosts of a people scattered and peeled, and from a people wonderful from their beginning hitherto; a nation meted out and trodden under foot, whose land the rivers have spoiled, to the place of the name of the Lord of hosts, the Mount Zion." These troubles, caused by their sin, are to issue in their complete deliverance, and in their being brought to the Mount Zion as a present to the Lord of hosts.
5. But we are not left to an outline of the subject such as this. Many details much more minute are supplied by the prophetic word. Two statements of our blessed Lord Himself may well receive consideration here. To the Jews He says, "I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive." (John 5:43.) In this passage the Saviour speaks conditionally. He does not affirm that another will come in his own name, but that if one should thus come he would be received by the Jews. From other scriptures, however, we are fully assured that there is one to come in his own name, constituting thus the awful contrast to the lowliness of Jesus, who came in His Father's name, but whom, for that very reason, the Jews would not receive. There is one yet to come, having "a mouth speaking great things, whose look is more stout than his fellows;" one who is described as opposing and exalting himself "above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he, as God, sits in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God." This one, whose coming we saw in our last to be "after the power of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish," is to number among his adherents; not only those nominal Christians on whom "God shall send strong delusion, that they should believe a lie, that they all might be damned who believe not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness," but also a large proportion of the Jews who will have returned in unbelief to their own land. In them will be fulfilled that other word of Christ — not conditional, like John 5:43, but an absolute prediction of what will come to pass. "When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walks through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he finds it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goes he, and takes with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. EVEN SO SHALL IT BE, ALSO UNTO THIS WICKED GENERATION." (Matt. 12:43-45.) These last words emphatically declare the prophetic application to the unbelieving Jewish nation, of the parable drawn by our Lord from the case of a poor demoniac such as He describes. Doubtless there were individual instances of the kind; but the end for which our Lord delineates this one was to furnish prophetic instruction as to what should befall the guilty generation of the Jews.* The "unclean spirit" of idolatry which had always infested Israel till the Babylonish captivity, seemed from that epoch to have "gone out" of his house. When Christ was on earth there was nothing of the idolatry of Manasseh's or Zedekiah's day. The house was "empty," "swept" of many an outward abomination, and "garnished" with fairest appearances of piety and zeal. But the "unclean spirit" could still say of it, "my house." The stronger than the strong man armed had not forcibly dispossessed him. He was on earth, and in Israel's land, and proving, by unnumbered glorious works, His superiority to Satan's power, and His readiness to dispossess him. But Israel would not receive Him. They said He did not "cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils." It was this utter rejection of Christ, as expressed in this awful, daring blasphemy, that drew forth from His lips the words on which we meditate. Portentous words! The unclean spirit of idolatry is yet to return, taking seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and, as with the demoniac, so with the wicked, unbelieving, Jewish "generation," "the last state is worse than the first."
*Would not this use of the word "generation" illustrate and confirm the explanation of it (see "The Great Prophetic Question") as used in Matthew 24:34? It supplies, moreover, what we ought to have noticed in our remarks on the latter passage, the moral element which entered into our Lord's use of the word. Not only was the Jewish nation not to pass till the things treated of should be fulfilled but the Jewish nation morally characterized as it then was — "this wicked generation" - should not pass, etc. When the predictions of Matthew 24 are fulfilled, the "generation" in this moral sense of the word will pass away, but not till then. It will then be succeeded by a "generation" of an entirely different character. "A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation. They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he has done this." (Psalm 22:30-31.) See also Psalm 102:18, and compare Deut. 32:5 and 20.
6. Is it not to this that the prophet refers in Isaiah 28:15, where he speaks of the rulers at Jerusalem making a "covenant with death," and an "agreement with hell?" There are several marks by which it is evident that this passage is a prediction of what is yet to occur. First, it foretells events which were to be subsequent to the laying in Zion for a foundation, "the tried stone," "the precious corner stone," on which whosoever believed should not make haste. (See verse 16.) The events predicted were to be subsequent to Christ's first coming. Secondly, these events are connected with what is termed by the prophet, "the overflowing scourge," an expression clearly pointing to the awful judgments of the final crisis. Thirdly, if it should be urged that the "covenant with death" and "agreement with hell" took place when the Jewish rulers united with the Roman power to crucify our Lord, and that "the overflowing scourge" refers to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, we should be far from affirming that there is no allusion in the prophecy to these events. Acts 4:25-27 is undoubted authority for believing that the confederacy against Christ was then formed, which Psalm 2 declares will be judged and overthrown when Christ, having received "the heathen for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession," shall "break them with a rod of iron," and "dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel." But whatever reference there may be in the passage before us to this confederacy of the Jews with the Roman power eighteen hundred years ago, the prophecy reaches on to the yet future and rapidly approaching crisis. The power of the resuscitated Roman Empire, under its eighth Satanic head, will be dominant in Jerusalem when the Jews are again found there as the recognized people of the land: and as their fathers united with the Roman power to crucify the true Christ, they will unite with it to accredit and follow the false Christ, the Antichrist. The One who came humbly in His Father's name they would not receive: the one who comes proudly in his own name they will receive. Under his wings they will put their trust. "Wherefore hear the word of the Lord, ye scornful men, that rule this people which is in Jerusalem: Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves. Therefore thus says the Lord God, … judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet; and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place. And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand: when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it."
So awful is the visitation, that it is described an follows: "From the time that it goes forth, it shall take you: for morning by morning shall it pass over, by day and by night: and it shall be a vexation only to understand the report." The remainder of the passage demonstrates the futurity of these events, and that they take place in connection with that great crisis of human affairs when "the Lord comes out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity." "For the Lord shall rise up as in Mount Perazim, he shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that he may do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act." The prophet then warns his readers: "Now, therefore, be ye not mockers, lest your bands be made strong: for I have heard from the Lord God of hosts a consumption, even determined upon the whole earth." The judgments of that coming day (however the land of Israel and the surrounding countries may be their special focus and centre) extend to the whole earth. They are universal in their range.
7. The next passage to which we invite attention, is one in which we shall find further instruction as to this "covenant with death" and "agreement with hell." It is Dan. 9:24-27; and we would beg the reader, ere proceeding, to turn to the passage, and read the whole chapter, noticing particularly these closing verses. Daniel had understood from books that the seventy years which had been declared by Jeremiah to be the assigned limit of the Babylonish captivity, were now expiring, or had expired; and he set himself by prayer and fasting to seek the Lord his God on behalf of his beloved country and nation. It is of consequence to observe that it was not as to Christianity, or the Christian Church, that Daniel's sympathies were aroused and his supplications poured forth. It was as to his own nation and Jerusalem, the beloved city of his fathers. At the close of his prayer, so simple, so touching, so earnest and importunate, he informs us, "And while I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin, and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God for the holy mountain of my God … the man Gabriel … being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation." He brings to the prophet intelligence from God as to the subject of his deep solicitude. "Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people, and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy." As Daniel's prayers, so this prophetic answer by an angel's lips, referred to Daniel's people and Daniel's holy city — "Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people, and upon thy holy city." It is of all importance to bear this in mind.* "Seventy weeks are determined," etc. As to whether they be weeks of days or years, the context, with other scriptures, must determine. We need not say that the whole passage proves that they are "weeks of years" which are treated of. There were seventy weeks of years, that is, four hundred and ninety years, determined upon Daniel's people and upon his holy city. Within this prophetic period all the events enumerated in verse 24, just quoted, were to be accomplished, and accomplished on Daniel's people and Daniel's holy city. Such is the general, comprehensive statement of the whole burden of the prophecy, with which Gabriel's communication opens.
*On this subject the following extract may not be unwelcome: — "During these seventy weeks, God is in relation with Israel, the power of the Gentiles existing at the same time. We know from Scripture that the restoration of Jerusalem took place under the reign of the Gentiles, as well as the whole course of the sixty-nine weeks which have assuredly passed away. The seventy have all the same character in this respect. It is only at the end of the seventy that pardon is granted. Whatever may be the instrument of the covenant, the fourth beast will be at that time the ruling power of the Gentiles, to whom God has committed authority. It is very important, if we would understand the seventy weeks, to remark this state of things — the Jews restored, the city rebuilt, but the Gentiles still occupying the throne of the world. The seventy weeks have their course only under these conditions. It must be well understood that it is the people of Daniel who are meant, and his city, which are to be re-established in their former favour with God. The long-suffering of God still now waits. The Gentile power has already failed in faithfulness; Babylon has been overthrown; by means of intercession the Jews provisionally restored, and the temple rebuilt. The seventy weeks had very nearly elapsed when Christ came. If the Jews, and Jerusalem, in that her day, had repented, all was ready for her re-establishment in glory. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob could have been raised up, as Lazarus had been. But she knew not the day of her visitation, and the fulfilling of the seventy weeks, as well as the blessing that should follow had necessarily to be postponed. Through grace we know that God had yet more excellent thoughts and purposes. Accordingly all is here announced beforehand." — Synopsis of the Books of the Bible. Vol. ii.
"But how is this!" asks the reader. "Israel's transgressions are not yet finished, their sins are not yet made an end of, they are not yet reconciled, or brought to own the Lord as their everlasting righteousness. The veil is yet upon their hearts, though far more than four hundred and ninety years have elapsed since Daniel's day." Most true is all this,* and yet most satisfactory is the solution of the difficulty afforded by the remaining verses of the prophecy. Seventy weeks were determined for these ends on the prophet's people and on his holy city, is the general statement of verse 24. The remaining verses distribute these seventy weeks into three distinct periods. "Know, therefore, and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem, unto the Messiah the Prince, shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself." So far, all is clear. There was to be a period of seven weeks, forty-nine years, during which the wall and the street of Jerusalem should be rebuilt. Ezra and Nehemiah record the fulfilment of this part of the prophecy. From the close of this shorter period of seven weeks, another was to be reckoned of sixty-two weeks, making, with the former, sixty-nine weeks, or four hundred and eighty-three years. At the close of this second period, Messiah was to be "cut off, but not for himself." The marginal reading of this latter clause, preferred by most scholars, is, "and shall have nothing." At the close of sixty-nine weeks, Messiah, who had come in fulfilment of all the promises to Israel, was cut off, and had nothing. Instead of sitting on the throne of His father David, and reigning in peace over the house of Israel and over the whole earth, He was crucified between two thieves, and had none of the earthly dignities and glories to which, as Israel's promised Messiah, He was entitled. We know, indeed, that His death has secured other and more glorious ends, and that hereafter it will be found to have been the indispensable basis even of Israel's enjoyment of the blessings of their Messiah's reign. But Christianity and the Church are not in view in this prophecy of Daniel: and as to his people and his holy city, which alone are regarded here, instead of Messiah being welcomed as such, and entering on the promised glories of His reign, He was, at the end of the sixty-nine weeks, "cut off, and had nothing." Thus we reach the end of the second period; and between it and the third, or last, period into which the seventy weeks are divided, events are foretold which belong to none of the three periods. The prophecy is as follows: "And the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined." Messiah being rejected by His own people, the Jews, nothing remained but that they should for a length of time endure the consequences of their sin. These consequences are depicted to us in the words just cited. "The prince that shall come" is not the Messiah. Messiah had come and been cut off. Neither is it "the prince" himself who destroys the city and the sanctuary. Who the prince is, we learn when we come to the events of the last week. It is his people, the people of the yet-future prince, who destroy the city and sanctuary. All know that it was by the Romans Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed; but "the prince" is not Titus, who commanded the Roman armies, but some yet-future head of the Roman Empire. From the destruction of the city and sanctuary, there should be nothing but desolations to the end of the war. Daniel's "people" and "holy city" are entirely set aside. Christianity fills up the interval, which has already lasted eighteen centuries; but with these centuries Daniel's prophecy of the seventy weeks has nothing to do. Jerusalem is not our holy city. For the present, Jerusalem in the thoughts of faith is no more holy than any city of the Gentiles. But it is equally true that she is holy in both her recollections and her prospects. The seventy weeks were determined upon Daniel's" people" and upon his "holy city:" and whenever the seventieth week shall commence, it will be Jerusalem and the Jews who will be again in question before God.
*In accepting thus the statements made in the supposed objection, we would not be understood to question for a moment that in another sense the most important prediction in the passage has been fulfilled. Undoubtedly Christ has made an end of sins, has made reconciliation for iniquity, and brought in everlasting righteousness; and faith knows this and rejoices in it, whether such faith be found in Jew or Gentile. But Daniel's subject is the application of these things to his people and to his holy city. We all know that when Israel is restored it will be under "the new covenant." Now no covenant is valid until the blood of a victim has been shed. Christ's blood, the blood of the new covenant, has, blessed be His name, been shed. But to Israel nationally that blood has not been yet applied, and it is of its national application that Gabriel treats.
"And he (that is, "the prince that shall come") shall confirm (see margin) a covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations, he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate." Here we have the "covenant with death," and the "agreement with hell" on the part of the Jewish rulers. Re-established in their land, under the protection of "the prince that shall come," the eighth, Satanic head of that people who long ago destroyed the city and the sanctuary, it is with him that they, the Jews — that is, the mass of them — will enter into an alliance for seven years. Their worship being restored, their sacrifices and oblations (vain sacrifices and oblations of wickedness) will again smoke on their altars. But in the midst of the week, "the prince" will break his covenant with this guilty race; he will cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease. In our last, when contemplating this same personage under the symbol of the little horn in Daniel 7, we saw, that he will "think to change times and laws," and how they are to be "given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time." Now this is precisely the same length of time as will elapse from the middle to the end of the last week. It is the same as the "short time" in Rev. 12 after the dragon is cast down from heaven. The beast, also, to whom the dragon then gives "his power, and his seat, and great authority," and whose deadly wound has been healed, has power "given to him to continue forty and two months."* (Rev. 13:5.) This beast, whose worship, as we saw, is to be enforced on pain of death, will surely claim to be worshipped at Jerusalem. It is thus that "the prince" will break his covenant with the Jews and abolish their sacrifices. "And for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate." The margin reads, "upon the battlements shall be the idols of the desolator." Either rendering substantially gives the sense. The word, "abominations," in Old Testament language, means idols; as for instance, "Chemosh" is termed "the abomination of Moab;" and "Milcolm," the "abomination of the Ammonites." (1 Kings 11:5-7.) The word rendered "overspreading" literally means "wings," which in Scripture suggests the idea of protection. "The shadow of his wings." "Under his wings shalt thou trust." These passages show the use of the word. "For the protection of idols he shall make it desolate." Thus does the Jewish nation, which refused to be gathered under Messiah's wing when here, seek protection in the end under the wing of him who sets himself above all that is called God or worshipped. It is in consequence of this that the last waves of tribulation pass over them, — "he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate." The last state of that "wicked generation" is indeed "worse than the first."
*All these prophetic periods express, in different forms, a duration of three and a half years.
8. In Daniel 8 we have the prophetic description of what seems to be another enemy and oppressor of the Jews in the last days. We would express ourself with diffidence on this subject, aware of the difficulties which beset the interpretation of the chapter, and of the way in which the most enlightened and competent students of prophecy differ in judgment with regard to it, A few suggestions, however, we would submit to the reader.
In the first place, it is evident that whoever may be the one symbolized by the "little horn" of chapter 8, he has his origin, not in the Western part of those regions embraced by the symbol of "the image" in Daniel 2, but in the Eastern. He rises not from the Roman but the Grecian empire; or rather, from some one of the four kingdoms into which the Grecian empire was divided. The reader will remember here, what was noticed in our last number as to Daniel 7:12, that after the imperial authority of Babylon, Persia, and Greece was destroyed, the existence of each, as a separate kingdom, was still prolonged. The first eight verses of chapter 8 set forth the wars between Persia and Greece, which should issue in the triumph of the latter, speedily to be followed, however, by its own division into four kingdoms. These are represented by four notable horns on the he-goat, which appear in the place of the first great horn, when it has been broken. In verse 9, we begin to hear of a "little horn" coming forth from one of these four, "which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land." Palestine is doubtless denoted by the last expression. This "little horn" magnifies himself also against (margin) the prince of the host, and from* (margin) him the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the place of his sanctuary is cast down. It is further represented as "casting down the truth to the ground," and we are told that "it practised and prospered." The duration of its actings, or rather of the period which ends by the sanctuary being cleansed, is stated to be "two thousand three hundred days." All this the prophet saw and heard in a vision. He anxiously seeks for the meaning of this vision, when Gabriel is again sent to instruct him. It is with Gabriel's explanation that we have most to do, as bearing most immediately on the subject before us.
*The importance of this marginal reading, which is decidedly preferred by some scholars, is, that if correct, the passage does not attribute the taking away of the daily sacrifice to the "little horn," but speaks of its being taken from the prince of the host.
"And he said, Behold, I will make thee know what shall be in the last end of the indignation: for at the time appointed the end shall be." Who can doubt that "the last end of the indignation" points to the very closing period of Jewish tribulation? "the end" for which there is a certain "appointed time?" "The ram" is then explained to be Medo-Persia; "the rough goat," Greece; and the "great horn," the first Grecian king. We hear of its partition into four, and then we read, "And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up. And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper and practise, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people. And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many; he also shall stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand." On these words it may be remarked that,
(a.) It is "in the latter time" of the four kingdoms into which Alexander's was divided, that this prediction is to have its accomplishment. We are far from affirming that these words would not in a true sense apply to Antiochus Epiphanes, of whom this whole prophecy of "the little horn" is often explained. It was in "the latter time" of the four Grecian kingdoms, as at first constituted, that Antiochus reigned; and undoubtedly his actings in Jerusalem and Judea strikingly correspond with much here foretold of "the little horn." But when we remember that Gabriel came to show Daniel what should be "in the last end of the indignation" against the Jews — for so only can we understand the words; when we bear in mind that Egypt now exists as a separate kingdom, and Greece likewise; and when we recollect that nothing is more probable than that the wars or the diplomacy of our own or future times may yet reproduce, as distinct kingdoms, Syria and Thrace, the other two partitions of Alexander's empire; we cannot resist the conviction that "the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full," is a yet future time; and that the "king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences," is one who is yet to "stand up."
(b.) His power, though mighty, is "not by his own power." He is a delegate or representative of another, from whom his authority is derived. He is thus, as well as by his eastern origin, distinguished from the great chief, the eighth head of the revived Roman empire. He bears thus a closer resemblance to the second beast in Rev. 13 than to the first.
(c.) It is among "the mighty and the holy people" — those whom Daniel would understand by these words — the Jews, that he practises and prospers, and he is represented as destroying them.
(d.) Policy, craft, extraordinary intelligence, and peaceable professions, are the weapons by which he chiefly succeeds, though he be at the same time of "fierce countenance" and a "wonderful" destroyer.
All this suggests thoughts of the two-horned beast of Rev. 13, with lamb-like power and dragon-like voice, who exercises all the power of the first beast before him, or in his presence, that is, as his delegate, and who does great wonders, deceiving the dwellers on earth, and causing them by his miracles and his power to worship the image of the beast. 6. In the end he stands up against the Prince of princes, and is broken without hand. One cannot but be reminded by this language of the end of the second beast of Rev. 13, or "false prophet" of Rev. 19. He is, with the beast, "cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone." Still, we do but suggest these points of resemblance to our readers, without affirming anything as to the identity or otherwise of the prophetic symbols in question.
9. In the latter part of Daniel 11, we have still further instructions as to what will befall the Jews in the latter days. Syria and Egypt were the principal kingdoms among the four into which the Grecian monarchy was divided; and they have a special place on account of their connections with the Holy Land, Palestine always belonging either to the one or the other. The former part of chapter 11 is occupied with the prophetic history of these two powers, under the names of "the king of the north" and "the king of the south;" a prophecy so exactly fulfilled that infidels have alleged that it must have been written since the events! In verse 30 we find introduced into the scene another power, the Western or Roman power, here spoken of as "the ships of Chittim." "For the ships of Chittim shall come against him; therefore he (the king of the north, Syria,) shall be grieved, and return, and have indignation against the holy covenant: so shall he do: he shall even return, and have intelligence with them that forsake the holy covenant, And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that makes desolate." This would not seem to be the passage quoted by our Lord in Matt. 24:15: it is, as we humbly judge, Daniel 12:11, to which He refers, as immediately connected with the time of unequalled tribulation, which tribulation is to be immediately followed by His own coming in the clouds of heaven.*
*On this point, as on some others of detail, the reader will find the present edition somewhat differing from the former. We trust the change is the fruit of clearer light on the matters in question.
From verses 30, 31, which would appear to have had their fulfilment in Antiochus Epiphanes, to verse 35, we have predictions of what would occur during the long period of Jewish desolation, which will only terminate with "the time of the end;" and then in verse 36, we suddenly hear of a person styled "the king" -not "the king of the north," or "the king of the south," but "the king." In two other passages solemn mention is made of some one under this title. "And thou wentest to THE KING with ointment, and didst increase thy perfumes, and didst send the messengers far off, and didst debase thyself even unto hell." (Isaiah 57:9.) "For Tophet is ordained of old; yea, for THE KING it is prepared: he has made it deep and large; the pile thereof is fire and much wood; the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it." (Isaiah 30:33.) The Assyrian has been the subject of the verses immediately preceding this; and it might be thought, at first sight, that "the king" means the king of Assyria. No doubt Tophet is ordained of old for him; but for "the king" also, thus suddenly introduced, as in the passage we were considering, (Daniel 11:36,) this doom is prepared.
"And THE KING shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation he accomplished." He is then said not to "regard the God of his fathers, or the desire of women (the Messiah) or any god: for he shall magnify himself above all." The moral identity of this with 2 Thess. 2 is too obvious to require comment, "But in his estate shall he honour the god of forces; and a god whom his fathers knew not shall he honour with gold, and silver, and with precious stones, and pleasant things." The beast will be worshipped, and his image, if all other worship be displaced and prohibited, to make room for this. "Thus shall he do in the most strongholds with a strange god, whom he shall acknowledge and increase with glory: and he shall cause them (his idolatrous agents) to rule over many, and shall divide the land for gain." Such is the protection the Jews receive by means of their "covenant with death," and their "agreement with hell." The rest of the chapter details movements and counter movements of the kings of the south and of the north, and predicts the end of one of the contending powers in the Holy Land. But, however there may be more agents than one in these closing scenes, and whatever difficulty may be felt in assigning this passage definitely to the one and that to the other, there are moral links which show with sufficient clearness that they are, in general, the same sad scenes of rampant, triumphant evil, energized by Satan's power, which are portrayed to us. One, such as 2 Thess. 2, or the passages in Revelation, may present those scenes in their connection with apostate Christendom; another, such as Daniel 7, may depict them in reference to the open revolt against God of Gentile power; and others again, such as we have now been examining, may treat of them in connection with Jewish apostacy. The scenes and actors are morally identified in the most solemn way throughout. The special theatre and seat of operation may be the Western Roman Empire in its last form; or it may be the Holy Land and the surrounding Eastern countries; but whether it be the one or the other, it is the same terrific character of utter, daring, blasphemous opposition to God which we behold in each case. Self-exaltation, self-will, the deifying of man, and the enforcement of his worship, along with the setting aside and trampling down of everything, whether divine or human, which stands in the way — such are the moral features of the approaching crisis! Such are the heights of daring rebellion against God for which the world, whether Jewish, Gentile, or nominally Christian, is fast ripening! The Lord grant that our hearts may be solemnly impressed with that which He has thus revealed. And may we, in the spirit of our minds, and in our daily walk, be by faith in Christ and communion with Him, more and more separated from the course of this world, the final issues of which God has thus deigned for our warning to set before us.
The first verse of the following chapter must on no account be omitted. "And at that time (observe these words) shall Michael stand up, the great prince which stands for the children of thy people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time; and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book." Happy conclusion of the dreary scenes we have been called to contemplate! May our meditations on those scenes be blest to us; and may we be prepared by God's grace for the inquiries which yet remain.